Loving and Leaving Paris
Fragrances of various shades and intensities waft around. Women and dogs of fashionable clothes totter around. Ok- so this is what makeup is. I scold myself for staring. What would mom say? She with her prim manners and primer ideas on ‘genteel’ and ‘ladylike’ would have outdone the women by ignoring. But Indians are normally very curious and I am very Indian.
Champs-Elysées is one of the prettiest walks ever. The French have no doubt, it IS the prettiest. I do not disagree.
Jean Paul maintains a pleasant flow of conversation. French history is better heard when from him. I am amazed when he dashes of dates and years associated with places. The non-believer in me wonders if all of it is correct. Both eyes on the road, one ear listening to him and the other listening to my thoughts…
We take the Parisian customary photo in front of the Arc d'Triomphe. I make a note to myself not to get a copy of it.
Souvenirs hold no interest. They are forgotten memories one insists on trying to remember. Blurs of smells, sights and sounds... I fool myself by forgetting. These days I forget even the forgotten.
Jean Paul once visited India. I took him around Pondicherry. He knew not a word of English and I knew few French words. Suffice to say it was a disaster. Most of the silence when we bicycled or sputtered around in my Kinetic was dispelled by coughs, cleared throats and while in quiet places, by shuffled shoes. He gave me a French book on parting hoping I would learn. In the years that passed, he learnt English. People have been suffocatingly kind to me.
Shopkeepers who returned more change when I bought clothes. And after painfully counting the coins and stretching back the rest, a conspiratorial wink and pressing my fingers back to enclose the cold circles.
Strangers who stopped cars and stood on gelid pavements while first determining the handwriting and then the address on the crumpled paper.
The day I left, the Chinese good luck doll that I got. A French guy who gave a Chinese doll to an Indian girl.
Universe. Globalization. Kindness. Or a bit of it all.